Treating the Opioid crisis: Expectant mom kicks heroin for herself and her baby girl

Substance abuse treatment program for pregnant women helps break the cycle of addiction.

Chassady Harden was six months pregnant and in the grips of a heroin addiction when she decided to get help.

“I got tired of living the way I was living. I was trying to get sober, but it wasn’t working,” Chassady said. “I knew I had two choices: Either my daughter was going to be taken away from me, or I was going to keep her. I chose to keep her.”

Chassady heard about the Norton Maternal Opiate Substance Treatment Program, or MOST Program, from a friend.

MOST is a treatment program designed specifically for pregnant women to help break the cycle of addiction. MOST provides prenatal and addiction medical care at Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital. Emphasis is placed on substance use disorder recovery to support parenthood and enrich the lives of the affected children.

“Our patients have a lot of shame and guilt about their substance use disorder,” said Jonathan W. Weeks, M.D., maternal-fetal medicine physician with Norton Children’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine and medical director of the MOST Program. “Being pregnant while using heightens their shame. As a result, many of these women hide their problem from family and friends, fearing consequences such as losing custody of their children.”

The MOST Program

Specialized care for pregnant women with substance use disorder, and their babies.

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Chassady said it was the MOST Program staff’s kindness and nonjudgmental treatment that helped her through the program.

“Dr. Weeks sat down and took the time to explain the program and how everything worked,” Chassady said. “He helped me understand that just because I got help didn’t mean I was going to lose custody of my baby.”

According to Chassady, besides helping her medically detox from heroin, the treatment program took care of all of her needs. Program staff made sure she was eating. Chassady had help making important decisions. She received nicotine patches to help her quit smoking.

“They took good care of me,” Chassady said. “I just had to be there and be willing to get sober.”

The program also took good care of Chassady’s baby. Babies born to mothers who used opiates such as heroin or oxycodone during pregnancy are at risk of a condition called neonatal abstinence syndrome.

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Chassady gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Elizabeth in September 2018.

But the help provided to Chassady by the MOST Program didn’t end with detox or even the birth of Elizabeth.

“They’re still helping me,” Chassady said.

“They’re not going to take your kid away from you. They’re going to make you feel like they want you to be there. They’re going to help you and get you straight.”

Chassady Harden

Chassady continues to see her therapist from the MOST Program, who recently set her up with an in-home therapist so she won’t have the hassle of taking the baby to appointments. MOST also helped transition Chassady to an office where she could continue receiving medication she needed.

According to Angie Adams, a licensed clinical social worker and clinical therapist with Norton Children’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine, patients in the MOST Program receive an individualized treatment plan and care.

“Many of the women we see have a history of trauma, mental health issues or life stressors that they are dealing with,” Angie said. “I educate them on substance use disorder and mental health issues and spend a lot of time talking about the impact of substance use on families.”

According to Angie, patients may receive individual therapy, referrals to community partners or other specialists, and resources for the patients and their families. They also receive education related to follow-up care for their babies, safe sleeping and breastfeeding.

“My main goal is to meet our patients and families where they are and join with them in their recovery process,” Angie said.

The program is working for Chassady and her family.

According to Chassady, motherhood can get frustrating sometimes, not knowing what her daughter wants, but she loves playing with her and being able to breastfeed her.

Chassady also wants other women who may be battling addiction during their pregnancy to know they can get better — and their baby can get better — through treatment.

“Go to the MOST Program,” Chassady said. “It’s comfortable and safe. They’re not going to take your kid away from you. They’re going to make you feel like they want you to be there. They’re going to help you and get you straight.”

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